This post had to be called “Ricoh GR III review” but I had to change the title, because this won’t be a review after all.
I received my Ricoh GR III some days ago and I started playing with it, doing tests and trying to understand what had been improved and what not. My goal was to determine if it made sense to switch from the older to the newer model.
The GR III is smaller and somewhat lighter than the II, this is noticeable. The changes to the user interface (camera buttons and software menus) were a bothering point at first, because I realised how accustomed I am to the older ones — but this is something that can be overcome quite fast after all, so I went on with my exploration.
At this point something did occur though, and it changed everything. The camera started to get warm. I did some tests, with Shake Reduction on and off, with different scenarios (menus browsing, photos browsing, shooting, a mix of them etc) and the result was always the same. After 10 minutes or so, the camera became quite warm. After 20-30 minutes it was hot. So hot that had no wish to use it. And a camera I have no wish of using is a useless camera, at least for me.
I have to make a point: I live in a place where it is not uncommon to have about 20°C during Xmas time. During summer months we are usually above 30°C and we easily go to 35, 38, even 40°C and more. So, a warm or hot camera is not a good idea for me.
The Olympus Pen-F does warm a bit but it is nothing compared with the Ricoh GR III: for the Pen-F I managed to reduce the heat by turning on the in body stabilisation only during the half press of the shutter, and this helped a lot. With the GR III there is nothing that can be done. The camera is just too small, and it generates too much heat, and as usual the battery is in the grip, so you are grabbing a hot battery all the time.
The LCD also becomes hot, in the upper right corner.
I can’t accept a 900,00 euros camera heating like that. I don’t care about the new features, like the 24 megapixels or the stabilisation, if for enjoying them I must accept the camera becoming hot.
So, my joy after receiving the GR III became disappointment. I did various comparisons with my GR II. It goes without saying that the GR II stays cool no matter how much I use it. But what about the image quality?
First of all, the GR III has better ISO performance. On the GR II I don’t want to go above 1600 for color photography, while the GR III seems usable at 3200 and maybe 6400 if we are not too picky. This means 1 or 2 stops of difference, depending on your tolerance for noise. The difference in resolution is there but not so important: the jump from 16 to 24 is welcome but not a game changer.
Another thing that disappointed me is the new Image Control that took the place of the Effects. On the GR II we have less parameters for each effect, so it is much easier and faster to experiment with them. On the GR III they added many more parameters and I don’t like this at all. The look of the included “effects” is also different, so I could not replicate my Positive Film and Hi-Contrast B&W from te GR II. This is a huge problem for me. I tried to play with the sliders, doing tests side by side with the GR II, but the effect behaviour was always different in some ways.
At this point I kept looking at my GR II, thinking: why am I going through all this? Wasting time trying to get what I already have (the effects and image quality). Dealing with heat when I never had to before. And so on. I questioned myself: are 1 or 2 stops of ISO efficiency enough? Are 8 more megapixels enough? Is IBIS enough?
For me, the answer was no. So, as much as I love Ricoh/Pentax and no matter how I wanted to love this camera as I love the GR II, I just could not, and I sent the GR III back to the shop.
I am disappointed because Ricoh had in their hands an almost perfect camera. Users only asked for better sealing and a more modern sensor. That’s all. IBIS, touchscreen, more compact size, more complex effects.. who asked for this? And yet they decided to go that way. They removed the flash even if it was a favorite of thousands of GR users. And I could go on. But most than everything: didn’t they realise the camera heats up? Did they only test the camera in winter?
You may wonder why all the reviewers out there didn’t mention the heating problem. If you read in the comments to their videos, they have users complaining about it. If you go to the big photography forums, you find lots of people complain about the issue.
My idea is that either the reviewers tested the camera in a cold environment, so they didn’t really notice the warming, or they decided not to mention the issue because they received the camera from Ricoh and they could not talk honestly. Just see how many reviewers are thanking Ricoh for the test camera, how many were invited by Ricoh to events, etc. Other options are that the reviewers din’t pay attention or that they have a great tolerance for heat!
I consider the GR III an unsuccessful design. I hope Ricoh/Pentax will go back to the roots of the GR concept, producing a simple, reliable camera that is a pleasure to use. They just have to improve the GR II a bit: fix the sealing and dust issue, put a modern sensor. That’s all. Keep the same GR II size, who cares, it will help with heat dissipation and it will allow for a bigger battery. I would have paid 2000 euros for such a camera. But we got the GR III instead.
So my advice for the Ricoh lover or curious is: get a GR II instead. Learn to deal with its ISO. Try to be careful with the dust (I give some advices in my GR II review) and if it gets inside and it becomes an issue too big to be fixed in Photoshop just send it for repair or buy a new GR II, which will become cheaper and cheaper.
This is all I have to say about this camera. I was considering to make at least a photowalk to test it etc, but I really had no wish of spending time using it. The experience of shooting the camera was unpleasant, and this blog is about finding pleasure and satisfaction in photography. I am not a professional reviewer. I am a photographer and I treated the camera from that point of view. The GR III has been unpleasant to use and the improvements it offers over the GR II are not enough to make me accept the heating and some of its changes. Which seems crazy to me, considering how long I waited for it and how much I desired to like it. In the end I just wanted to get rid of it, get back to my GR II and keep shooting.
There will be no Ricoh GR III review, but there will be more posts about the Ricoh GR II, that’s sure. See you around!